New Study Finds the Best Brain Exercises to Boost Memory

Prevention

New Study Finds the Best Brain Exercises to Boost Memory

Korin Miller – January 28, 2023

New Study Finds the Best Brain Exercises to Boost Memory
  • Research has found exercise can have a positive impact on your memory and brain health.
  • A new study linked vigorous exercise to improved memory, planning, and organization.
  • Data suggests just 10 minutes a day can have a big impact.

Experts have known for years about the physical benefits of exercise, but research has been ongoing into how working out can impact your mind. Now, a new study reveals the best exercise for brain health—and it can help sharpen everything from your memory to your ability to get organized.

The study, which was published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, tracked data from nearly 4,500 people in the UK who had activity monitors strapped to their thighs for 24 hours a day over the course of a week. Researchers analyzed how their activity levels impacted their short-term memory, problem-solving skills, and ability to process things.

The study found that doing moderate and vigorous exercise and activities—even those that were done in under 10 minutes—were linked to much higher cognition scores than people who spent most of their time sitting, sleeping, or doing gentle activities. (Vigorous exercise generally includes things like running, swimming, biking up an incline, and dancing; moderate exercise includes brisk walking and anything that gets your heart beating faster.)

The researchers specifically found that people who did these workouts had better working memory (the small amount of information that can be held in your mind and used in the execution of cognitive tasks) and that the biggest impact was on executive processes like planning and organization.

On the flip side: People who spent more time sleeping, sitting, or only moved a little in place of doing moderate to vigorous exercise had a 1% to 2% drop in cognition.

“Efforts should be made to preserve moderate and vigorous physical activity time, or reinforce it in place of other behaviors,” the researchers wrote in the conclusion.

But the study wasn’t perfect—it used previously collected cohort data, so the researchers didn’t know extensive details of the participants’ health or their long-term cognitive health. The findings “may simply be that those individuals who move more tend to have higher cognition on average,” says lead study author John Mitchell, a doctoral training student in the Institute of Sport, Exercise & Health at University College London. But, he adds, the findings could also “imply that even minimal changes to our daily lives can have downstream consequences for our cognition.”

So, why might there be a link between exercise and a good memory? Here’s what you need to know.

Why might exercise sharpen your memory and thinking?

This isn’t the first study to find a link between exercise and enhanced cognition. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) specifically states online that physical activity can help improve your cognitive health, improving memory, emotional balance, and problem-solving.

Working out regularly can also lower your risk of cognitive decline and dementia. One scientific analysis of 128,925 people published in the journal Preventive Medicine in 2020 found that cognitive decline is almost twice as likely in adults who are inactive vs. their more active counterparts.

But, the “why” behind it all is “not entirely clear,” says Ryan Glatt, C.P.T., senior brain health coach and director of the FitBrain Program at Pacific Neuroscience Institute in Santa Monica, CA. However, Glatt says, previous research suggests that “it is possible that different levels of activity may affect brain blood flow and cognition.” Meaning, exercising at a harder clip can stimulate blood flow to your brain and enhance your ability to think well in the process.

“It could relate to a variety of factors related to brain growth and skeletal muscle,” says Steven K. Malin, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Health at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. “Often, studies show the more aerobically fit individuals are, the more dense brain tissue is, suggesting better connectivity of tissue and health.”

Exercise also activates skeletal muscles (the muscles that connect to your bones) that are thought to release hormones that communicate with your brain to influence the health and function of your neurons, i.e. cells that act as information messengers, Malin says. “This could, in turn, promote growth and regeneration of brain cells that assist with memory and cognition,” he says.

Currently, the CDC recommends that most adults get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise.

The best exercises for your memory

Overall, the CDC suggests doing the following to squeeze more exercise into your life to enhance your brain health:

  • Dance
  • Do squats or march in place while watching TV
  • Start a walking routine
  • Use the stairs
  • Walk your dog, if you have one (one study found that dog owners walk, on average, 22 minutes more every day than people who don’t own dogs)

However, the latest study suggests that more vigorous activities are really what’s best for your brain. The study didn’t pinpoint which exercises, in particular, are best—“when wearing an accelerometer, we do not know what sorts of activities individuals are doing,” Glatt points out. However, getting your heart rate up is key.

That can include doing exercises like:

Malin’s advice: “Take breaks in sitting throughout the day by doing activity ‘snacks.’” That could mean doing a minute or two of jumping jacks, climbing stairs at a brisk pace, or doing air squats or push-ups to try to replace about six to 10 minutes of sedentary behavior a day. “Alternatively, trying to get walks in for about 10 minutes could go a long way,” he says.

Travelers opting for rail again as Amtrak expands options

CBS News

Travelers opting for rail again as Amtrak expands options

Peter Greenberg – January 27, 2023

In the post-pandemic world, while many travelers have been obsessed with airlines, ground stops, cancellations and delays, Amtrak’s ridership is bouncing back — more than doubling in the Northeast corridor, and 88% across the country. At the same time, Amtrak was strengthening its long-haul services, with trains like the Empire Builder, the Zephyr, the Sunset Limited and the Southern Crescent, the Southwest Chief and the Coast Starlight, to name a few.

And while we don’t yet have true high-speed rail yet in this country — and may never have it — there are some improvements in the service. And why don’t we have high-speed rail? Because Amtrak doesn’t own its tracks. The freight lines do, and they have no interest in high-speed rail.

That may also explain why Amtrak doesn’t exactly own a great on-time service record — because their trains often have to pull over to a siding to let a 100-car-long freight train lumber through.

At the same time, Congress has never properly funded Amtrak to allow it to grow and upgrade and to be able to reinvest profits in its product.

In some cases, Amtrak has brought back the dining cars. But even more important, Amtrak has announced a major upgrade to its fleet, with the new “Amtrak Airo” trains — with more spacious interiors and modernized amenities will be rolling out across the U.S. in about three years. The cars will feature more table seating, better legroom and more room for all your electronic devices.

Until then, there’s some good news. Amtrak doesn’t promote it very well, and most passengers don’t know about it, but Amtrak actually sells a USA rail pass. For just $499, you get to travel Amtrak for 30 days and up to 10 rides. It’s a great deal — and children under 12 ride for $250.

And with new high-speed routes launching in several European countries in the past few months — Spain, in particular, has new options for travelers as train operators compete and prices fall — train travel in Europe is an increasingly attractive option.

The Eurail Pass has never been a better deal. It now enables rail travel in 33 European countries, an expansion from the initial 13 countries, with prices starting at $218. One Eurail pass for $473 gives you two months of train travel.

One caveat: you must buy your Eurail pass in conjunction with your roundtrip airline ticket from the U.S. to Europe. You can’t purchase it once you get there. And you can even get a Eurail pass that’s valid for three months.

Arizona is not out of water, despite all those headlines you might read

AZ Central – The Arizona Republic

Arizona is not out of water, despite all those headlines you might read

Joanna Allhands, Arizona Republic – January 25, 2023

Michael Rudolph (Dynamite Water) loads his water truck at the Scottsdale fill station on Dec. 29, 2022, located northwest of the intersection of Pima and Jomax roads in Scottsdale, Ariz. Rudolph was delivering water to a client in Rio Verde Foothills.
Michael Rudolph (Dynamite Water) loads his water truck at the Scottsdale fill station on Dec. 29, 2022, located northwest of the intersection of Pima and Jomax roads in Scottsdale, Ariz. Rudolph was delivering water to a client in Rio Verde Foothills.

The national press has had a field day with two not-so-positive Arizona water stories.

About 500 homes in the unincorporated community of Rio Verde Foothills can no longer haul water from Scottsdale, the neighboring city to the south.

Meanwhile, a state-produced model has found that the area north and west of Buckeye does not have enough groundwater to support future massive developments.

They’re alarming stories, but the coverage has piled on the hyperbole. Some headlines have made it sound as if an entire “Arizona town” was cut off.

One even took a giant, misleading leap: “Phoenix runs out of water.”

Arizona is not living with its head in the sand

The Colorado River – once 40% of the state’s water supply – is dwindling. About 80% of Arizona and about 20% of its population has no rules on groundwater pumping, which is draining many of our rural aquifers.

Add in these troubles sprouting in metro Phoenix, an area covered by the state’s most stringent groundwater management rules, and we’ve got urgent issues that require urgent responses.

But the headlines make it sound as if we’re completely botching our jobs as water stewards.

That’s not entirely fair, either.

Judge rules:Scottsdale doesn’t have to serve Rio Verde Foothills

Most metro Phoenix cities have spent decades storing water underground for a (non-)rainy day, for example. They have long recycled most of their wastewater, though we don’t yet drink it.

And while much of the coverage has focused on the fact that there isn’t enough water in parts of the far West Valley to support thousands of acres of future development, it glosses over why that growth may never occur:

Because we had the foresight decades ago to create an assured water supply program, which requires builders to prove they have secured enough water for the long haul before they can plat lots.

We have water protections. They need shoring up

Is that program fail proof? No.

The root cause of Rio Verde Foothills’ water problems is that state law allows property owners to subdivide land into less than six lots and avoid requirements to prove they have secured a 100-year water supply.

Homes were built solely on the promise of hauled water. The potential risk of such a deal was glossed over with homeowners. And despite all the negative coverage lately, people are still building in the area.

It doesn’t matter that these so-called wildcat lot splits encompass a fraction of the homes we build every year. Or that not all homes in Rio Verde Foothills are affected, just those that relied on Scottsdale for hauled water.

The headlines on repeat are that Arizona doesn’t have enough water to grow or even sustain existing residents.

The story is more nuanced than the headlines

The full story is more nuanced.

Water is still being hauled to Rio Verde Foothills, albeit from other spotty sources that are vastly more expensive. Residents haven’t lost water; they’ve lost access to cheap water.

That is unlikely to change if EPCOR, a private water provider, is given the green light in April to more permanently serve these residents. Solving the affordability problem won’t be easy.

Meanwhile, on the far west side of the Valley, developers either must find renewable water sources to build on large swaths of open desert or find affordable ways to grow closer in areas with the capacity to serve new residents.

That doesn’t mean growth is done.

It means we’ll have to rethink how and where we do it, and no, that won’t be easy, either.

Want to counter the narrative? Then up our game

Fixing the cracks through which some development has fallen would be a good start.

In Rio Verde Foothills, the solution cannot simply be to force Scottsdale to serve non-residents. We need to tackle the root problem, which means we need to rein in wildcat lot splits.

Lawmakers could change how we define “subdivisions” – that might be the cleanest fix. Or they could give counties more power to say no to homes that plan to haul water, particularly in areas like Rio Verde Foothills where groundwater is spotty.

In the West Valley, lawmakers must address a proliferation of “build-to-rent” homes, which are touted as a much-needed affordable housing alternative but also aren’t required to prove a long-term water supply before building.

If civic and elected leaders want to counter the narrative that Arizona is irresponsible, they need to get better at telling the full story – which, yes, means more clearly touting the things we’ve done well.

But because perception is reality in water, and virtually everyone else has similar success stories, they also need a clear plan – shared loudly and on repeat – for how they intend to up our game.

And, more importantly, the resolve to do it.

Can Anything Be Done to Assuage Rural Rage?

By Paul Krugman – January 26, 2023

At the center of a photo, a small American flag is stuck in vines surrounding a telephone pole on an overgrown side of a one-lane road. Across the road are scrubby trees with brownish leaves in the distance under a later afternoon sky.
Credit…Alyssa Schukar for The New York Times

Rural resentment has become a central fact of American politics — in particular, a pillar of support for the rise of right-wing extremism. As the Republican Party has moved ever further into MAGAland, it has lost votes among educated suburban voters; but this has been offset by a drastic rightward shift in rural areas, which in some places has gone so far that the Democrats who remain face intimidation and are afraid to reveal their party affiliation.

But is this shift permanent? Can anything be done to assuage rural rage?

The answer will depend on two things: whether it’s possible to improve rural lives and restore rural communities, and whether the voters in these communities will give politicians credit for any improvements that do take place.

This week my colleague Thomas B. Edsall surveyed research on the rural Republican shift. I was struck by his summary of work by Katherine J. Cramer, who attributes rural resentment to perceptions that rural areas are ignored by policymakers, don’t get their fair share of resources and are disrespected by “city folks.”

As it happens, all three perceptions are largely wrong. I’m sure that my saying this will generate a tidal wave of hate mail, and lecturing rural Americans about policy reality isn’t going to move their votes. Nonetheless, it’s important to get our facts straight.

The truth is that ever since the New Deal rural America has received special treatment from policymakers. It’s not just farm subsidies, which ballooned under Donald Trump to the point where they accounted for around 40 percent of total farm income. Rural America also benefits from special programs that support housing, utilities and business in general.

In terms of resources, major federal programs disproportionately benefit rural areas, in part because such areas have a disproportionate number of seniors receiving Social Security and Medicare. But even means-tested programs — programs that Republicans often disparage as “welfare” — tilt rural. Notably, at this point rural Americans are more likely than urban Americans to be on Medicaid and receive food stamps.

And because rural America is poorer than urban America, it pays much less per person in federal taxes, so in practice major metropolitan areas hugely subsidize the countryside. These subsidies don’t just support incomes, they support economies: Government and the so-called health care and social assistance sector each employ more people in rural America than agriculture, and what do you think pays for those jobs?

What about rural perceptions of being disrespected? Well, many people have negative views about people with different lifestyles; that’s human nature. There is, however, an unwritten rule in American politics that it’s OK for politicians to seek rural votes by insulting big cities and their residents, but it would be unforgivable for urban politicians to return the favor. “I have to go to New York City soon,” tweeted J.D. Vance during his senatorial campaign. “I have heard it’s disgusting and violent there.” Can you imagine, say, Chuck Schumer saying something similar about rural Ohio, even as a joke?

So the ostensible justifications for rural resentment don’t withstand scrutiny — but that doesn’t mean things are fine. A changing economy has increasingly favored metropolitan areas with large college-educated work forces over small towns. The rural working-age population has been declining, leaving seniors behind. Rural men in their prime working years are much more likely than their metropolitan counterparts to not be working. Rural woes are real.

Ironically, however, the policy agenda of the party most rural voters support would make things even worse, slashing the safety-net programs these voters depend on. And Democrats shouldn’t be afraid to point this out.

But can they also have a positive agenda for rural renewal? As The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent recently pointed out, the infrastructure spending bills enacted under President Biden, while primarily intended to address climate change, will also create large numbers of blue-collar jobs in rural areas and small cities. They are, in practice, a form of the “place-based industrial policy” some economists have urged to fight America’s growing geographic disparities.

Will they work? The economic forces that have been hollowing out rural America are deep and not easily countered. But it’s certainly worth trying.

But even if these policies improve rural fortunes, will Democrats get any credit? It’s easy to be cynical. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the new governor of Arkansas, has pledged to get the “bureaucratic tyrants” of Washington “out of your wallets”; in 2019 the federal government spent almost twice as much in Arkansas as it collected in taxes, de facto providing the average Arkansas resident with $5,500 in aid. So even if Democratic policies greatly improve rural lives, will rural voters notice?

Still, anything that helps reverse rural America’s decline would be a good thing in itself. And maybe, just maybe, reducing the heartland’s economic desperation will also help reverse its political radicalization.

How Barr’s Quest to Find Flaws in the Russia Inquiry Unraveled

The review by John Durham at one point veered into a criminal investigation related to Donald Trump himself, even as it failed to find wrongdoing in the origins of the Russia inquiry.

Charlie Savage, Adam Goldman and Katie Benner –  January 26, 2023

John Durham entering a vehicle.
The veteran prosecutor John H. Durham was given the job of determining whether there was any wrongdoing behind the investigation into the 2016 Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.Credit…Samuel Corum for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — It became a regular litany of grievances from President Donald J. Trump and his supporters: The investigation into his 2016 campaign’s ties to Russia was a witch hunt, they maintained, that had been opened without any solid basis, went on too long and found no proof of collusion.

Egged on by Mr. Trump, Attorney General William P. Barr set out in 2019 to dig into their shared theory that the Russia investigation likely stemmed from a conspiracy by intelligence or law enforcement agencies. To lead the inquiry, Mr. Barr turned to a hard-nosed prosecutor named John H. Durham, and later granted him special counsel status to carry on after Mr. Trump left office.

But after almost four years — far longer than the Russia investigation itself — Mr. Durham’s work is coming to an end without uncovering anything like the deep state plot alleged by Mr. Trump and suspected by Mr. Barr.

Moreover, a months long review by The New York Times found that the main thrust of the Durham inquiry was marked by some of the very same flaws — including a strained justification for opening it and its role in fueling partisan conspiracy theories that would never be charged in court — that Trump allies claim characterized the Russia investigation.

Interviews by The Times with more than a dozen current and former officials have revealed an array of previously unreported episodes that show how the Durham inquiry became roiled by internal dissent and ethical disputes as it went unsuccessfully down one path after another even as Mr. Trump and Mr. Barr promoted a misleading narrative of its progress.

  • Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham never disclosed that their inquiry expanded in the fall of 2019, based on a tip from Italian officials, to include a criminal investigation into suspicious financial dealings related to Mr. Trump. The specifics of the tip and how they handled the investigation remain unclear, but Mr. Durham brought no charges over it.
  • Mr. Durham used Russian intelligence memos — suspected by other U.S. officials of containing disinformation — to gain access to emails of an aide to George Soros, the financier and philanthropist who is a favorite target of the American right and Russian state media. Mr. Durham used grand jury powers to keep pursuing the emails even after a judge twice rejected his request for access to them. The emails yielded no evidence that Mr. Durham has cited in any case he pursued.
  • There were deeper internal fractures on the Durham team than previously known. The publicly unexplained resignation in 2020 of his No. 2 and longtime aide, Nora R. Dannehy, was the culmination of a series of disputes between them over prosecutorial ethics. A year later, two more prosecutors strongly objected to plans to indict a lawyer with ties to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign based on evidence they warned was too flimsy, and one left the team in protest of Mr. Durham’s decision to proceed anyway. (A jury swiftly acquitted the lawyer.)

Now, as Mr. Durham works on a final report, the interviews by The Times provide new details of how he and Mr. Barr sought to recast the scrutiny of the 2016 Trump campaign’s myriad if murky links to Russia as unjustified and itself a crime.

Mr. Barr, Mr. Durham and Ms. Dannehy declined to comment. The current and former officials who discussed the investigation all spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the legal, political and intelligence sensitivities surrounding the topic.

A year into the Durham inquiry, Mr. Barr declared that the attempt “to get to the bottom of what happened” in 2016 “cannot be, and it will not be, a tit-for-tat exercise. We are not going to lower the standards just to achieve a result.”

But Robert Luskin, a criminal defense lawyer and former Justice Department prosecutor who represented two witnesses Mr. Durham interviewed, said that he had a hard time squaring Mr. Durham’s prior reputation as an independent-minded straight shooter with his end-of-career conduct as Mr. Barr’s special counsel.

“This stuff has my head spinning,” Mr. Luskin said. “When did these guys drink the Kool-Aid, and who served it to them?”

Attorney General William P. Barr at the White House in a suit standing on a red carpet with officials in the background.
Attorney General William P. Barr took office in 2019 with suspicions about the origins of the Russia investigation. Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

A month after Mr. Barr was confirmed as attorney general in February 2019, the special counsel Robert S. Mueller III ended the Russia investigation and turned in his report without charging any Trump associates with engaging in a criminal conspiracy with Moscow over its covert operation to help Mr. Trump win the 2016 election.

Mr. Trump would repeatedly portray the Mueller report as having found “no collusion with Russia.” The reality was more complex. In fact, the report detailed “numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump campaign,” and it established both how Moscow had worked to help Mr. Trump win and how his campaign had expected to benefit from the foreign interference.

That spring, Mr. Barr assigned Mr. Durham to scour the origins of the Russia investigation for wrongdoing, telling Fox News that he wanted to know if “officials abused their power and put their thumb on the scale” in deciding to pursue the investigation. “A lot of the answers have been inadequate, and some of the explanations I’ve gotten don’t hang together,” he added.

While attorneys general overseeing politically sensitive inquiries tend to keep their distance from the investigators, Mr. Durham visited Mr. Barr in his office for at times weekly updates and consultations about his day-to-day work. They also sometimes dined and sipped Scotch together, people familiar with their work said.

In some ways, they were an odd match. Taciturn and media-averse, the goateed Mr. Durham had spent more than three decades as a prosecutor before Mr. Trump appointed him the U.S. attorney for Connecticut. Administrations of both parties had assigned him to investigate potential official wrongdoing, like allegations of corrupt ties between mafia informants and F.B.I. agents, and the C.I.A.’s torture of terrorism detainees and destruction of evidence.

By contrast, the vocal and domineering Mr. Barr has never prosecuted a case and is known for using his law enforcement platform to opine on culture-war issues and politics. He had effectively auditioned to be Mr. Trump’s attorney general by asserting to a New York Times reporter that there was more basis to investigate Mrs. Clinton than Mr. Trump’s “so-called ‘collusion’” with Russia, and by writing a memo suggesting a way to shield Mr. Trump from scrutiny for obstruction of justice.

But the two shared a worldview: They are both Catholic conservatives and Republicans, born two months apart in 1950. As a career federal prosecutor, Mr. Durham already revered the office of the attorney general, people who know him say. And as he was drawn into Mr. Barr’s personal orbit, Mr. Durham came to embrace that particular attorney general’s intense feelings about the Russia investigation.

President Trump walking past a blue curtain, while a glass reflects an image of him.
President Donald J. Trump openly suggested that Mr. Durham should charge his adversaries with crimes. Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

At the time Mr. Barr was confirmed, he told aides that he already suspected that intelligence abuses played a role in igniting the Russia investigation — and that unearthing any wrongdoing would be a priority.

In May 2019, soon after giving Mr. Durham his assignment, Mr. Barr summoned the head of the National Security Agency, Paul M. Nakasone, to his office. In front of several aides, Mr. Barr demanded that the N.S.A. cooperate with the Durham inquiry.

Referring to the C.I.A. and British spies, Mr. Barr also said he suspected that the N.S.A.’s “friends” had helped instigate the Russia investigation by targeting the Trump campaign, aides briefed on the meeting said. And repeating a sexual vulgarity, he warned that if the N.S.A. wronged him by not doing all it could to help Mr. Durham, Mr. Barr would do the same to the agency.

Mr. Barr’s insistence about what he had surmised bewildered intelligence officials. But Mr. Durham spent his first months looking for any evidence that the origin of the Russia investigation involved an intelligence operation targeting the Trump campaign.

Mr. Durham’s team spent long hours combing the C.I.A.’s files but found no way to support the allegation. Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham traveled abroad together to press British and Italian officials to reveal everything their agencies had gleaned about the Trump campaign and relayed to the United States, but both allied governments denied they had done any such thing. Top British intelligence officials expressed indignation to their U.S. counterparts about the accusation, three former U.S. officials said.

Mr. Durham and Mr. Barr had not yet given up when a new problem arose: In early December, the Justice Department’s independent inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, completed his own report on the origins of the Russia investigation.

The inspector general revealed errors and omissions in wiretap applications targeting a former Trump campaign adviser and determined that an F.B.I. lawyer had doctored an email in a way that kept one of those problems from coming to light. (Mr. Durham’s team later negotiated a guilty plea by that lawyer.)

But the broader findings contradicted Mr. Trump’s accusations and the rationale for Mr. Durham’s inquiry. Mr. Horowitz found no evidence that F.B.I. actions were politically motivated. And he concluded that the investigation’s basis — an Australian diplomat’s tip that a Trump campaign adviser had seemed to disclose advance knowledge that Russia would release hacked Democratic emails — had been sufficient to lawfully open it.

Michael E. Horowitz sitting at a desk and speaking into a microphone.
Michael Horowitz, the Justice Department’s inspector general, found no evidence that the F.B.I.’s actions in opening the investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia were politically motivated.Credit…Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times

The week before Mr. Horowitz released the report, he and aides came to Mr. Durham’s offices — nondescript suites on two floors of a building in northeast Washington — to go over it.

Mr. Durham lobbied Mr. Horowitz to drop his finding that the diplomat’s tip had been sufficient for the F.B.I. to open its “full” counterintelligence investigation, arguing that it was enough at most for a “preliminary” inquiry, according to officials. But Mr. Horowitz did not change his mind.

That weekend, Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham decided to weigh in publicly to shape the narrative on their terms.

Minutes before the inspector general’s report went online, Mr. Barr issued a statement contradicting Mr. Horowitz’s major finding, declaring that the F.B.I. opened the investigation “on the thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient.” He would later tell Fox News that the investigation began “without any basis,” as if the diplomat’s tip never happened.

Mr. Trump also weighed in, telling reporters that the details of the inspector general’s report were “far worse than anything I would have even imagined,” adding: “I look forward to the Durham report, which is coming out in the not-too-distant future. It’s got its own information, which is this information plus, plus, plus.”

And the Justice Department sent reporters a statement from Mr. Durham that clashed with both Justice Department principles about not discussing ongoing investigations and his personal reputation as particularly tight-lipped. He said he disagreed with Mr. Horowitz’s conclusions about the Russia investigation’s origins, citing his own access to more information and “evidence collected to date.”

But as Mr. Durham’s inquiry proceeded, he never presented any evidence contradicting Mr. Horowitz’s factual findings about the basis on which F.B.I. officials opened the investigation.

By summer 2020, it was clear that the hunt for evidence supporting Mr. Barr’s hunch about intelligence abuses had failed. But he waited until after the 2020 election to publicly concede that there had turned out to be no sign of “foreign government activity” and that the C.I.A. had “stayed in its lane” after all.

Mr. Barr and Mr. Trump departing Air Force One.
Mr. Barr later wrote that his relationship with Mr. Trump eroded because his “failure to deliver scalps in time for the election.”Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

On one of Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham’s trips to Europe, according to people familiar with the matter, Italian officials — while denying any role in setting off the Russia investigation — unexpectedly offered a potentially explosive tip linking Mr. Trump to certain suspected financial crimes.

Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham decided that the tip was too serious and credible to ignore. But rather than assign it to another prosecutor, Mr. Barr had Mr. Durham investigate the matter himself — giving him criminal prosecution powers for the first time — even though the possible wrongdoing by Mr. Trump did not fall squarely within Mr. Durham’s assignment to scrutinize the origins of the Russia inquiry, the people said.

Mr. Durham never filed charges, and it remains unclear what level of an investigation it was, what steps he took, what he learned and whether anyone at the White House ever found out. The extraordinary fact that Mr. Durham opened a criminal investigation that included scrutinizing Mr. Trump has remained secret.

But in October 2019, a garbled echo became public. The Times reported that Mr. Durham’s administrative review of the Russia inquiry had evolved to include a criminal investigation, while saying it was not clear what the suspected crime was. Citing their own sources, many other news outlets confirmed the development.

The news reports, however, were all framed around the erroneous assumption that the criminal investigation must mean Mr. Durham had found evidence of potential crimes by officials involved in the Russia inquiry. Mr. Barr, who weighed in publicly about the Durham inquiry at regular intervals in ways that advanced a pro-Trump narrative, chose in this instance not to clarify what was really happening.

By the spring and summer of 2020, with Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign in full swing, the Durham investigation’s “failure to deliver scalps in time for the election” began to erode Mr. Barr’s relationship with Mr. Trump, Mr. Barr wrote in his memoir.

Mr. Trump was stoking a belief among his supporters that Mr. Durham might charge former President Barack Obama and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. That proved too much for Mr. Barr, who in May 2020 clarified that “our concern of potential criminality is focused on others.”

Even so, in August, Mr. Trump lashed out in a Fox interview, asserting that Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden, along with top F.B.I. and intelligence officials, had been caught in “the single biggest political crime in the history of our country” and the only thing stopping charges would be if Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham wanted to be “politically correct.”

Against that backdrop, Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham did not shut down their inquiry when the search for intelligence abuses hit a dead end. With the inspector general’s inquiry complete, they turned to a new rationale: a hunt for a basis to accuse the Clinton campaign of conspiring to defraud the government by manufacturing the suspicions that the Trump campaign had colluded with Russia, along with scrutinizing what the F.B.I. and intelligence officials knew about the Clinton campaign’s actions.

Mr. Durham also developed an indirect method to impute political bias to law enforcement officials: comparing the Justice Department’s aggressive response to suspicions of links between Mr. Trump and Russia with its more cautious and skeptical reaction to various Clinton-related suspicions.

He examined an investigation into the Clinton Foundation’s finances in which the F.B.I.’s repeated requests for a subpoena were denied. He also scrutinized how the F.B.I. gave Mrs. Clinton a “defensive briefing” about suspicions that a foreign government might be trying to influence her campaign through donations, but did not inform Mr. Trump about suspicions that Russia might be conspiring with people associated with his campaign.

Hillary Clinton holding a ballot at a polling place in 2016 surrounded by a group.
The Durham inquiry looked for evidence that Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign had conspired to frame Donald J. Trump.Credit…Doug mills/The New York Times

During the Russia investigation, the F.B.I. used claims from what turned out to be a dubious source, the Steele dossier — opposition research indirectly funded by the Clinton campaign — in its botched applications to wiretap a former Trump campaign aide.

The Durham investigation did something with parallels to that incident.

In Mr. Durham’s case, the dubious sources were memos, whose credibility the intelligence community doubted, written by Russian intelligence analysts and discussing purported conversations involving American victims of Russian hacking, according to people familiar with the matter.

The memos were part of a trove provided to the C.I.A. by a Dutch spy agency, which had infiltrated the servers of its Russian counterpart. The memos were said to make demonstrably inconsistent, inaccurate or exaggerated claims, and some U.S. analysts believed Russia may have deliberately seeded them with disinformation.

Mr. Durham wanted to use the memos, which included descriptions of Americans discussing a purported plan by Mrs. Clinton to attack Mr. Trump by linking him to Russia’s hacking and releasing in 2016 of Democratic emails, to pursue the theory that the Clinton campaign conspired to frame Mr. Trump. And in doing so, Mr. Durham sought to use the memos as justification to get access to the private communications of an American citizen.

One purported hacking victim identified in the memos was Leonard Benardo, the executive vice president of the Open Society Foundations, a pro-democracy organization whose Hungarian-born founder, Mr. Soros, has been vilified by the far right.

In 2017, The Washington Post reported that the Russian memos included a claim that Mr. Benardo and a Democratic member of Congress, Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, had discussed how Loretta E. Lynch, the Obama-era attorney general, had supposedly promised to keep the investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s emails from going too far.

But Mr. Benardo and Ms. Wasserman Schultz said they had never even met, let alone communicated about Mrs. Clinton’s emails.

Mr. Durham set out to prove that the memos described real conversations, according to people familiar with the matter. He sent a prosecutor on his team, Andrew DeFilippis, to ask Judge Beryl A. Howell, the chief judge of the Federal District Court in Washington, for an order allowing them to seize information about Mr. Benardo’s emails.

But Judge Howell decided that the Russian memo was too weak a basis to intrude on Mr. Benardo’s privacy, they said. Mr. Durham then personally appeared before her and urged her to reconsider, but she again ruled against him.

Rather than dropping the idea, Mr. Durham sidestepped Judge Howell’s ruling by invoking grand-jury power to demand documents and testimony directly from Mr. Soros’s foundation and Mr. Benardo about his emails, the people said. (It is unclear whether Mr. Durham served them with a subpoena or instead threatened to do so if they did not cooperate.)

Rather than fighting in court, the foundation and Mr. Benardo quietly complied, according to people familiar with the matter. But for Mr. Durham, the result appears to have been another dead end.

In a statement provided to The Times by Mr. Soros’s foundation, Mr. Benardo reiterated that he never met or corresponded with Ms. Wasserman Schultz, and said that “if such documentation exists, it’s of course made up.”

Nora R. Dannehy walking to a taxi cab.
Nora R. Dannehy in 2009. A longtime aide to Mr. Durham, Ms. Dannehy resigned from his team in 2020 after disputes with him over prosecutorial ethics.Credit…Mark Wilson/Getty Images

As the focus of the Durham investigation shifted, cracks formed inside the team. Mr. Durham’s deputy, Ms. Dannehy, a longtime close colleague, increasingly argued with him in front of other prosecutors and F.B.I. agents about legal ethics.

Ms. Dannehy had independent standing as a respected prosecutor. In 2008, Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey assigned her to investigate whether to charge senior Bush administration officials with crimes related to a scandal over the firing of U.S. attorneys; she decided in 2010 that no charges were warranted.

Now, Ms. Dannehy complained to Mr. Durham about how Mr. Barr kept hinting darkly in public about the direction of their investigation. In April 2020, for example, he suggested to Fox News that officials could be prosecuted, saying that “the evidence shows that we are not dealing with just mistakes or sloppiness. There is something far more troubling here.”

Ms. Dannehy urged Mr. Durham to ask the attorney general to adhere to Justice Department policy and not discuss the investigation publicly. But Mr. Durham proved unwilling to challenge him.

The strains grew when Mr. Durham used grand jury powers to go after Mr. Benardo’s emails. Ms. Dannehy opposed that tactic and told colleagues that Mr. Durham had taken that step without telling her.

By summer 2020, with Election Day approaching, Mr. Barr pressed Mr. Durham to draft a potential interim report centered on the Clinton campaign and F.B.I. gullibility or willful blindness.

On Sept. 10, 2020, Ms. Dannehy discovered that other members of the team had written a draft report that Mr. Durham had not told her about, according to people briefed on their ensuing argument.

Ms. Dannehy erupted, according to people familiar with the matter. She told Mr. Durham that no report should be issued before the investigation was complete and especially not just before an election — and denounced the draft for taking disputed information at face value. She sent colleagues a memo detailing those concerns and resigned.

Mr. Durham walking out a federal court and wearing a suit.
Cracks formed in Mr. Durham’s team as the scope of his investigation shifted. Credit…Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press

Two people close to Mr. Barr said he had pressed for the draft to evaluate what a report on preliminary findings would look like and what evidence would need to be declassified. But they insisted that he intended any release to come during the summer or after the Nov. 3 election — not soon before Election Day.

In any case, in late September 2020, about two weeks after Ms. Dannehy quit, someone leaked to a Fox Business personality that Mr. Durham would not issue any interim report, disappointing Trump supporters hoping for a pre-Election Day bombshell.

Stymied by the decision not to issue an interim Durham report, John Ratcliffe, Mr. Trump’s national intelligence director, tried another way to inject some of the same information into the campaign.

Over the objections of Gina Haspel, the C.I.A. director, Mr. Ratcliffe declassified nearly 1,000 pages of intelligence material before the election for Mr. Durham to use. Notably, in that fight, Mr. Barr sided with Ms. Haspel on one matter that is said to be particularly sensitive and that remained classified, according to two people familiar with the dispute.

Mr. Ratcliffe also disclosed in a letter to a senator that “Russian intelligence analysis” claimed that on July 26, 2016, Mrs. Clinton had approved a campaign plan to stir up a scandal tying Mr. Trump to Russia.

The letter acknowledged that officials did “not know the accuracy of this allegation or the extent to which the Russian intelligence analysis may reflect exaggeration or fabrication.” But it did not mention that there were many reasons that suspicions about the Trump campaign were arising in that period — like the diplomat’s tip, Mr. Trump’s flattery of President Vladimir V. Putin, his hiring of advisers with links to Russiahis financial ties to Russia and his call for Russia to hack Mrs. Clinton.

The disclosure infuriated Dutch intelligence officials, who had provided the memos under strictest confidence.

Michael Sussman walking through an open door in a suit.
Mr. Durham accused Michael Sussmann of lying in a meeting with an F.B.I. official. He was acquitted.Credit…Samuel Corum for The New York Times

Late in the summer of 2021, Mr. Durham prepared to indict Michael Sussmann, a cybersecurity lawyer who had represented Democrats in their dealings with the F.B.I. about Russia’s hacking of their emails. Two prosecutors on Mr. Durham’s team — Anthony Scarpelli and Neeraj N. Patel — objected, according to people familiar with the matter.

Five years earlier, Mr. Sussmann had relayed a tip to the bureau about odd internet data that a group of data scientists contended could reflect hidden communications between the Trump Organization and Alfa Bank of Russia. The F.B.I., which by then had already launched its Russia investigation, briefly looked at the allegation but dismissed it.

Mr. Durham accused Mr. Sussmann of lying to an F.B.I. official by saying he was not conveying the tip for a client; the prosecutor maintained Mr. Sussmann was there in part for the Clinton campaign.

Mr. Scarpelli and Mr. Patel argued to Mr. Durham that the evidence was too thin to charge Mr. Sussmann and that such a case would not normally be prosecuted, people familiar with the matter said. Given the intense scrutiny it would receive, they also warned that an acquittal would undermine public faith in their investigation and federal law enforcement.

When Mr. Durham did not change course, Mr. Scarpelli quit in protest, people familiar with the matter said. Mr. Patel left soon after to take a different job. Both declined to comment.

The charge against Mr. Sussmann was narrow, but the Durham team used it to make public large amounts of information insinuating what Mr. Durham never charged: that Clinton campaign associates conspired to gin up an F.B.I. investigation into Mr. Trump based on a knowingly false allegation.

Trial testimony, however, showed that while Mrs. Clinton and her campaign manager hoped Mr. Sussmann would persuade reporters to write articles about Alfa Bank, they did not want him to take the information to the F.B.I. And prosecutors presented no evidence that he or campaign officials had believed the data scientists’ complex theory was false.

After Mr. Sussmann’s acquittal, Mr. Barr, by then out of office for more than a year, suggested that using the courts to advance a politically charged narrative was a goal in itself. Mr. Durham “accomplished something far more important” than a conviction, Mr. Barr told Fox News, asserting that the case had “crystallized the central role played by the Hillary campaign in launching as a dirty trick the whole Russiagate collusion narrative and fanning the flames of it.”

And he predicted that a subsequent trial, concerning a Russia analyst who was a researcher for the Steele dossier, would also “get the story out” and “further amplify these themes and the role the F.B.I. leadership played in this, which is increasingly looking fishy and inexplicable.”

Igor Danchenko walking outside of a courthouse surrounded by a group.
Mr. Durham’s prosecution of Igor Danchenko, a Russia analyst who was a researcher for the Steele dossier, ended in acquittal. Credit…Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

That case involved Igor Danchenko, who had told the F.B.I. that the dossier exaggerated the credibility of gossip and speculation. Mr. Durham charged him with lying about two sources. He was acquitted, too.

The two failed cases are likely to be Mr. Durham’s last courtroom acts as a prosecutor. Bringing demonstrably weak cases stood in contrast to how he once talked about his prosecutorial philosophy.

James Farmer, a retired prosecutor who worked with Mr. Durham on several major investigations, recalled him as a neutral actor who said that if there were nothing to charge, they would not strain to prosecute. “That’s what I heard, time and again,” Mr. Farmer said.

Delivering the closing arguments in the Danchenko trial, Mr. Durham defended his investigation to the jury, denying that his appointment by Mr. Barr had been tainted by politics.

He asserted that Mr. Mueller had concluded “there’s no evidence of collusion here or conspiracy” — a formulation that echoed Mr. Trump’s distortion of the Russia investigation’s complex findings — and added: “Is it the wrong question to ask, well, then how did this get started? Respectfully, that’s not the case.”

Trump adviser Eastman faces California disciplinary charges

Associated Press

Trump adviser Eastman faces California disciplinary charges

January 26, 2023

FILE - Chapman School of Law professor John Eastman testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 16, 2017. Conservative attorney Eastman, a lead architect of some of former President Donald Trump's efforts to remain in power after the 2020 election, was slapped Thursday, Jan.26, 2023, with a series of disciplinary charges in California that could lead to his disbarment. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
Chapman School of Law professor John Eastman testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 16, 2017. Conservative attorney Eastman, a lead architect of some of former President Donald Trump’s efforts to remain in power after the 2020 election, was slapped Thursday, Jan.26, 2023, with a series of disciplinary charges in California that could lead to his disbarment. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
FILE - Chapman University law professor John Eastman stands at left as former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani speaks in Washington at a rally in support of President Donald Trump, called the "Save America Rally" on Jan. 6, 2021. Conservative attorney Eastman, a lead architect of some of former President Donald Trump's efforts to remain in power after the 2020 election, was slapped Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023, with a series of disciplinary charges in California that could lead to his disbarment.( AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)
Chapman University law professor John Eastman stands at left as former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani speaks in Washington at a rally in support of President Donald Trump, called the “Save America Rally” on Jan. 6, 2021. Conservative attorney Eastman, a lead architect of some of former President Donald Trump’s efforts to remain in power after the 2020 election, was slapped Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023, with a series of disciplinary charges in California that could lead to his disbarment.( AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Conservative attorney John Eastman, a lead architect of some of former President Donald Trump’s efforts to remain in power after the 2020 election, was slapped Thursday with a series of disciplinary charges in California that could lead to his disbarment.

The State Bar of California’s chief trial counsel, George Cardona, said in a statement that the 11 charges stem from allegations that Eastman assisted Trump with a strategy — not supported by facts — to overturn the legitimate results of the 2020 election by obstructing the count of electoral votes of certain states.

The office intends to seek Eastman’s disbarment.

Eastman, the former dean of Chapman University law school in Southern California, was one of Trump’s lawyers during the election. He wrote a memo that argued former Vice President Mike Pence could keep Trump in power by overturning the results of the election during a joint session of Congress convened to count electoral votes. Critics have likened that to instructions for staging a coup.

The State Bar said Eastman faces charges that he violated the business and professions code by making false and misleading statements that constitute acts of “moral turpitude, dishonesty, and corruption.”

Eastman disputes “every aspect” of the charges filed by the State Bar, which are based on his role as counsel to the former president after the election, his attorney, Randall A. Miller, said in a statement.

The State Bar’s action “is part of a nationwide effort to use the bar discipline process to penalize attorneys who opposed the current administration in the last presidential election. Americans of both political parties should be troubled by this politicization of our nation’s state bars,” Miller’s statement said.

In advising Trump, “Eastman’s assessments were the product of comprehensive research of the law and historical records — including the 12th Amendment and Electoral Count Act — supported by reasonable interpretation of legal and historical precedent, scholarly analysis, and legislative history,” Miller added.

“He was a lawyer, not Rasputin,” Miller said.

The bar disclosed in March that it was investigating Eastman for possible ethics violations.

As the State Bar’s chief trial counsel, Cardona investigates and prosecutes attorney disciplinary matters before the State Bar Court, which can recommend attorneys be either suspended or, in some cases, lose their licenses to practice law. The California Supreme Court ultimately decides what to do.

Eastman has been a member of the California Bar since 1997, according to its website. He was a law clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and a founding director of the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, a law firm affiliated with the Claremont Institute. He ran for California attorney general in 2010, finishing second in the Republican primary.

Eastman retired as dean of the Chapman University law school last year after more than 160 faculty members signed a letter calling for the university to take action against him.

In his statement, Cardona said the charges allege that Eastman “violated this duty in furtherance of an attempt to usurp the will of the American people and overturn election results for the highest office in the land — an egregious and unprecedented attack on our democracy.”

Science has finally cracked the mystery of why so many people believe in conspiracy theories

Insider

Science has finally cracked the mystery of why so many people believe in conspiracy theories

Adam Rogers – January 26, 2023

Man sitting cross-legged, using laptop underneath a very big brain filled with conspiracies theories, from the Illuminati, September 11 attacks and COVID hoax
People don’t buy into conspiracy theories because of ignorance or social isolation. They do it because of a more prevalent personality quirk: overconfidence.Getty Images; iStock; Alyssa Powell/Insider

When it comes to the spread of cockamamie conspiracy theories, Twitter was a maximum viable product long before Elon Musk paid $44 billion for the keys. But as soon as he took the wheel, Musk removed many of the guardrails Twitter had put in place to keep the craziness in check. Anti-vaxxers used an athlete’s collapse during a game to revive claims that COVID-19 vaccines kill people. (They don’t.) Freelance journalists spun long threads purporting to show that Twitter secretly supported Democrats in 2020. (It didn’t.) Musk himself insinuated that the attack on Nancy Pelosi’s husband was carried out by a jealous boyfriend. (Nope.) Like a red thread connecting clippings on Twitter’s giant whiteboard, conspiratorial ideation spread far and wide.

By some measures more than half of Americans believe at least one tale of a secret cabal influencing events. Some are more plausible than others; a few are even true. But most — from classics like the faked moon landing to new-school stuff like 5G cell towers causing COVID — defy science and logic. And while social-media platforms like Twitter and Meta may help deranged conspiracy theories metastasize, a fundamental question remains: Why does anyone fall for stuff like that?

Social scientists are closing in on some answers. The personality traits known as the “Dark Triad” — that’s narcissism, psychopathy, and a tendency to see the world in black-or-white terms — play a part. So do political beliefs, particularly populism and a tolerance for political violence. Cognitive biases, like believing only evidence that confirms what you already think, also make people more vulnerable.

But according to new research, it isn’t ignorance that makes people most likely to buy into conspiratorial thinking, or social isolation or mental illness. It’s a far more prevalent and pesky personality quirk: overconfidence.

The more you think you’re right all the time, a new study suggests, the more likely you are to buy conspiracy theories, regardless of the evidence. That’d be bad enough if it applied only to that one know-it-all cousin you see every Thanksgiving. But given how both politics and business reward a faith in one’s own genius, the news is way worse. Some of the same people this hypothesis predicts will be most prone to conspiracy thinking also have the biggest megaphones — like an ex-president who believes he’s never wrong, and a CEO who thinks that building expensive cars makes him some sort of visionary. It’d be better, or at least more reassuring, if conspiracy theories were fueled by dumb yahoos rather than self-centered monsters. Because arrogance, as history has repeatedly demonstrated, is a lot harder to stamp out than stupidity.

Have faith in yourself (but not too much)

A decade or so ago, when Gordon Pennycook was in graduate school and wanted to study conspiracist thinking, a small but powerful group of unelected people got together to stop him. It wasn’t a conspiracy as such. It was just that back then, the people who approved studies and awarded grants didn’t think that “epistemically suspect beliefs” — things science can easily disprove, like astrology or paranormal abilities — were deserving of serious scholarship. “It was always a kind of fringe thing,” Pennycook says. He ended up looking into misinformation instead.

Still, the warning signs that conspiracy theories were a serious threat to the body politic go way back. A lot of present-day anti-semitism can be traced back to a 19th-century forgery purporting to describe a secret meeting of a Jewish cabal known as the Elders of Zion (a forgery based in part on yet another antisemitic conspiracy theory from England in the 1100s and re-upped by the industrialist Henry Ford in the 1920s). In 1962, the historian Richard Hofstadter warned against what he called the “paranoid style” of America’s radical right and its use of conspiracy fears to whip up support. Still, most scientists thought conspiracy theories weren’t worth their time, the province of weirdos connecting JFK’s death to lizard aliens.

Then the weirdos started gaining ground. Bill Clinton, they claimed, murdered Vince Foster. George W. Bush had advance knowledge of the September 11 attacks. Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States. Belief in baseless theories could lead to actual violence — burning cellphone towers because of that COVID thing, or attacking the Capitol because Hugo Chávez rigged the US election. By the time of the January 6 insurrection, Pennycook had already switched to studying conspiracy.

It still isn’t entirely clear whether more people believe conspiracy theories today. Maybe there are just more theories to believe. But researchers pretty much agree that crackpot ideas are playing a far more significant role in politics and culture, and they have a flurry of hypotheses about what’s going on. People who believe in conspiracies tend to be more dogmatic, and unable to handle disagreement well. They also rate higher on those Dark Triad personality traits. They’re not stark raving mad, just a tick more antisocial.

But at this point, there are just way too many believers in cuckoo theories running around for the explanation to be ignorance or mental illness. “Throughout most of the 1970s, 80% — that’s eight zero — believed Kennedy was killed by a conspiracy,” says Joseph Uscinski, a political scientist at the University of Miami. “Would we say all of those people were stupid or had a serious psychological problem? Of course not.”

Which brings us to the overconfidence thing. Pennycook and his collaborators had been looking at the ways intuition could lead people astray. They hypothesized that conspiratorial thinkers overindex for their own intuitive leaps — that they are, to put it bluntly, lazy. Most don’t bother to “do their own research,” and those who do believe only things that confirm their original conclusions.

“Open-minded thinking isn’t just engaging in effortful thought,” Pennycook observes. “It’s doing so to evaluate evidence that’s directed toward what’s true or false — to actually question your intuitions.” Pennycook wanted to know why someone wouldn’t do that. Maybe it was simple overconfidence in their own judgment.

Sometimes, of course, people are justified in their confidence; after four decades in journalism, for example, I’m right to be confident in my ability to type fast. But then there’s what’s known as “dispositional” overconfidence — a person’s sense that they are just practically perfect in every way. How could Pennycook’s team tell the difference?

Their solution was pretty slick. They showed more than 1,000 people a set of six images blurred beyond recognition and then asked the subjects what the pictures were. Baseball player? Chimpanzee? Click the box. The researchers basically forced the subjects to guess. Then they asked them to self-assess how well they did on the test. People who thought they nailed it were the dispositional ones. “Sometimes you’re right to be confident,” Pennycook says. “In this case, there was no reason for people to be confident.”

Sure enough, Pennycook found that overconfidence correlated significantly with belief in conspiracy theories. “This is something that’s kind of fundamental,” he says. “If you have an actual, underlying, generalized overconfidence, that will impact the way you evaluate things in the world.”

The results aren’t peer-reviewed yet; the paper is still a preprint. But they sure feel true (confirmation bias aside). From your blowhard cousin to Marjorie Taylor Greene, it seems as if every conspiracist shares one common trait: a supreme smugness in their own infallibility. That’s how it sounds every time Donald Trump opens his mouth. And inside accounts of Elon Musk’s management at Twitter suggest he may also be suffering from similar delusions.

“That’s often what happens with these really wealthy, powerful people who sort of fail upwards,” says Joe Vitriol, a psychologist at Lehigh University who has studied the way people overestimate their own expertise. “Musk is not operating in an environment in which he’s accountable for the mistakes he makes, or in which others criticize the things he says or does.”

An epidemic of overconfidence

Pennycook isn’t the first researcher to propose a link between self-regard and epistemically suspect beliefs. Anyone who has attended a corporate meeting has experienced the Dunning-Kruger effect — the way those who know the least tend to assume they know the most. And studies by Vitriol and others have found a correlation between conspiracy thinking and the illusion of explanatory depth — when people who possess only a superficial understanding of how something works overestimate their knowledge of the details.

But what makes Pennycook’s finding significant is the way it covers all the different flavors of conspiracists. Maybe some people think their nominal expertise in one domain extends to expertise about everything. Maybe others actually believe the conspiracy theories they spread, or simply can’t be bothered to check them out. Maybe they define “truth” legalistically, as anything people can be convinced of, instead of something objectively veridical. Regardless, they trust their intuition, even though they shouldn’t. Overconfidence could explain it all.

Pennycook’s findings also suggest an explanation for why conspiracy theories have become so widely accepted. Supremely overconfident people are often the ones who get handed piles of money and a microphone. That doesn’t just afford them the means to spread their baseless notions about Democrats running an international child sex-trafficking ring out of the basement of a pizza parlor, or Sandy Hook being a hoax. It also connects them to an audience that shares and admires their overweening arrogance. To many Americans, Pennycook suggests, the overconfidence of a Musk or a Trump isn’t a bug. It’s a feature.

coronavirus protest disinformation fake news
To many Americans, new research suggests, the overconfidence of an Elon Musk or a Donald Trump isn’t a bug. It’s a feature.Stanton Sharpe/SOPA Images/LightRocket

It’s not necessarily unreasonable to believe in dangerous conspiracies. The US government really did withhold medical treatment from Black men in the Tuskegee trial. Richard Nixon really did cover up an attempted burglary at The Watergate HotelJeffrey Epstein really did force girls to have sex with his powerful friends. Transnational oil companies really did hide how much they knew about climate change.

So distinguishing between plausible and implausible conspiracies isn’t easy. And we might be more likely to fall for the implausible ones if they’re being spouted by people we trust. “The same thing is true for you,” Pennycook tells me. “If you hear a scientist or a fellow journalist at a respected outlet, you say, ‘This is someone I can trust.’ And the reason you trust them is that they’re at a respected outlet. But the problem is, people are not that discerning. Whether the person says something they agree with becomes the reason they trust them. Then, when the person says something they’re not sure about, they tend to trust that, too.”

The next step, or course, is to figure out how to fight the spread of conspiratorial nonsense. Pennycook is trying; he spent last year working at Google to curb misinformation; his frequent collaborator David Rand has worked with Facebook. They had some meetings with TikTok, too. That pop-up asking whether you want to read the article before sharing it? That was them.

And what about the bird site? “Twitter? Well, that’s another thing altogether,” Pennycook says. He and Rand worked on the crowdsource fact-check function called Community Notes. But now? “It’s all in flux, thanks to Elon Musk.”

But Pennycook’s new study suggests that the problem of conspiracy theories runs far deeper — and may prove far more difficult to solve — than simply tweaking a social-media algorithm or two. “How are you going to fix overconfidence? The people who are overconfident don’t think there’s a problem to be fixed,” he says. “I haven’t come up with a solution for that yet.”

Adam Rogers is a senior correspondent at Insider.

US will send Ukraine more advanced Abrams tanks, but without “secret armor”

Ukrayinska Pravda

US will send Ukraine more advanced Abrams tanks, but without “secret armor”

Ukrainska Pravda – January 26, 2023

The Abrams tanks that the United States intends to transfer to Ukraine are the modern M1A2, not the A1, which the US military has in stock, but they will also be stripped of their so-called secret armor, which includes depleted uranium.

Source: Politico, referring to three informed sources; European Pravda.

The M1A2 Abrams has more advanced optics and a control system than the A1, which allows for more accurate targeting, and a separate thermal camera for the crew commander, allowing him independent identification of targets in any weather and battlefield conditions.

The new modification of the tank contains digitised control mechanisms, which allow machines to continuously and automatically exchange information, quickly track the location of allied machines, identify enemy positions and process artillery requests.

At the same time, those Abrams that Ukraine will receive will be deprived of the secret armour packages used by the American military, which include depleted uranium. The USA uses the same practice when selling tanks to other countries.

Any modification of the Abrams is significantly more effective in terms of firepower, accuracy and armour compared to the Soviet-era tanks currently used by Ukraine. However, they are more difficult to operate.

Among other things, Abrams tanks have a turbojet engine that uses expensive JP-8 jet fuel, require extensive maintenance, as well as powerful infrastructure, including M88 repair and recovery vehicles to repair broken parts on the battlefield.

Currently, it is equally difficult to determine the timing of when Ukraine will receive Abrams tanks. They will be purchased from the industry. Tanks are assembled in only one place, at the state-owned General Dynamics plant in Ohio, which is currently loaded with new orders for Taiwan and Poland.

On 25 January, US President Joe Biden confirmed his intention to send 31 M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, equal to one Ukrainian battalion, to strengthen its defence capabilities against the backdrop of Russian aggression.

Along with the tanks, the USA will train the Ukrainian military and provide spare parts as soon as possible.

For his part, Konstantin Gavrilov, Head of the Russian delegation in Vienna at the OSCE Forum, stated that the German Leopard 2 tanks are equipped with sub-calibre armour-piercing shells with uranium cores, and Moscow will consider their use in Ukraine against Russians as the use of “dirty bombs”.

Fox’s ‘Straight News’ Anchor Harris Faulkner Lets Rick Scott Peddle His Medicare Lie

Daily Beast

Fox’s ‘Straight News’ Anchor Harris Faulkner Lets Rick Scott Peddle His Medicare Lie

Justin Baragona – January 26, 2023

Fox News
Fox News

Fox News anchor Harris Faulkner on Thursday allowed Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) to repeatedly push the lie that Democrats slashed hundreds of billions of dollars in funding for Medicare—even though that spurious claim had been debunked months ago.

In fact, not only did Faulkner—often labeled one of Fox’s “straight news” anchors—allow Scott’s falsehood to slide, she wondered how the Florida lawmaker would be able to work with Democrats since they’re “incapable of telling the truth.”

With the GOP now holding a slim majority in the House, the party has shifted much of its focus to austerity and pushing spending cuts across the board. Despite insisting during the midterms that they wouldn’t target Social Security and Medicare, House Republicans are now leveraging the fight over the debt ceiling to explicitly weigh proposals that would slash these entitlement programs.

Faulkner, who began her Thursday program by decrying the Democratic “spend, spend, spend” agenda amid rising debt, sounded the alarm over the “alarming” crisis facing entitlement programs. She aired a clip of President Joe Biden accusing Scott and Republicans of looking to reduce Social Security and Medicare.

Fox ‘Straight News’ Anchor Declares Biden ‘Hates at Least Half’ the U.S.

“I don’t know one Republican, including me—we would never cut Medicare or Social Security. I’m gonna do everything I can to make sure there are no cuts in Medicare or Social Security,” the senator exclaimed. “But let’s remember, the Democrats, they all voted to cut $280 billion out of Medicare last September and Biden signed it.”

“Yes,” Faulkner empathically agreed.

“Let’s just remember—$280 billion they cut, and they want to say other people will do it,” Scott continued.

Though the Fox anchor heartily endorsed Scott’s assertion, fact-checkers knocked down this claim last year—which centers on provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act that allows Medicare to negotiate drug prices with manufacturers.

According to government budget scorers, the Democratic-led bill that passed last year would save taxpayers anywhere between $237 billion and $288 billion due to pharmaceutical companies agreeing to lower prices on medications for Medicare patients. Still, Scott—whose GOP policy agenda last year drew widespread criticism for proposing to cut Social Security—insisted at the time that this was a reduction in benefits.

Fox ‘Straight News’ Anchor Echoes Tucker’s ‘Poorer and Dirtier’ Line About Migrants

CNN anchor Dana Bash, meanwhile, pushed back against his talking points during an interview last October, telling Scott that the legislation “allowed for negotiation for prescription drug prices, which would ultimately bring down the price and the costs for Medicare consumers.”Faulkner, however, was content to let Scott’s lie stand on Thursday.

Having already agreed with him once, the Fox anchor teed the Florida Republican up for a second round by airing comments from a Fox Business host who accused Democrats of “lying through their teeth” about the debt ceiling and Republicans’ stance on entitlements.

“I have to get your reaction to that because you have to negotiate with these people and you hear Larry Kudlow describing Democrats as they’re incapable of telling the truth about what we owe,” Faulkner declared.

After Scott grumbled that “they are not going to be honest with the American public,” the wealthiest U.S. senator expressed concern that “Wall Street has done really well” while average Americans suffer.

Fox News Airs Poll, Anchor Immediately Scolds Colleague for Citing It

“That’s a flip of what the rhetoric is, isn’t it?” Faulkner reacted. “Democrats are looking across the aisle at you as Republicans and saying we are the ones who care about the middle class and seniors, but now what we’re seeing is that’s not actually true!”

Scott then repeated his false claim about Medicare cuts.

“They cut Medicare, Harris! They cut Medicare just four months ago,” They cut $280 billion out of Medicare, and they wanna say we want to cut it? No, I’m gonna fight like hell to make sure we preserve Medicare and Social Security because we can, we should, and we owe it to our seniors, but we have to do it by living within our means.”

Rather than correct the record, the Fox News anchor instead said that “everybody” has to live within a budget before moving on to Biden’s classified documents scandal.

Russia fumes over NATO tanks heading to Ukraine, revealing a Kremlin coming to grips with reality

Yahoo! News

Russia fumes over NATO tanks heading to Ukraine, revealing a Kremlin coming to grips with reality

Alexander Nazaryan, Senior W. H. Correspondent – January 26, 2023

WASHINGTON — Russia responded with anger and scorn after Germany and the United States revealed that they would be supplying Ukraine with powerful, advanced battle tanks. Moscow invoked history and warned of a broader conflict.

But in doing so, the Kremlin only highlighted its own political and military constraints.

The move was a “blatant provocation,” said Anatoly Antonov, the Russian ambassador to the United States, ahead of President Biden’s announcement on Wednesday afternoon that his administration would send 31 M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine in the coming weeks and months.

Germany said the same day that it was sending 14 of its Leopard 2 tanks.

President Biden speaks from a podium as Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin stand behind him..
President Biden announces plans to send Abrams tanks to Ukraine on Wednesday, as Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin listen. (Susan Walsh/AP)

“A losing scheme,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. “We have repeatedly said that these tanks go up in flames like all the other armor,” he boasted, even as Russian forces continued to experience astonishing battlefield losses, including an estimated 123,000 soldiers killed and some 3,100 tanks lost.

“NATO must be destroyed, there are no other options,” mused Vladimir Solovyov, a prominent state television host whose impassioned tirades are valued by the Kremlin for their reach and visceral appeal.

“Of course this is an escalation, of course this is a movement strictly towards nuclear midnight,” said another state television host, Anatoly Kuzichev, referencing the recent decision by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists to move its Doomsday Clock to within 90 seconds of an atomic-weapons exchange.

For the most part, however, the warnings emanating from the Kremlin and its top media propagandists had a predictable quality and were tinged with resignation. Russian President Vladimir Putin and his top advisers were likely aware, given consistent and escalating NATO support for Ukraine throughout the last 11 months, that it was perhaps only a matter of time before Western heavy armor made its way to Eastern Europe.

The White House appeared unruffled by the threats.

“The propagandists in the Russian media can say what they will,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told Yahoo News at a press briefing at the White House on Wednesday afternoon. Much as Biden had earlier in the day, Kirby argued that the tanks “don’t pose a threat to the Russian homeland. They are designed to help the Ukrainians.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin, sitting at a desk, chairs a meeting with members of the Security Council via a video link.
Russian President Vladimir Putin during a virtual Security Council meeting on Jan. 20. (Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik/Kremlin via Reuters)

As Russia groused, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was already asking for fighter jets, confident such demands would at least be registered, if not necessarily honored.

His confidence is not unwarranted. When the war began almost a year ago, American officials made distinctions between supposed “offensive” and “defensive” weapons, fearing that sending the former would trigger a damaging Russian response, perhaps against NATO itself.

Germany was mocked for offering helmets to Ukraine.

But as Russia’s bloody invasion persisted well into 2022, those distinctions began to matter less and less. And as Biden and his European counterparts accepted that Ukraine’s defense would be a prolonged affair, concerns about sending ever more powerful weapons to Ukraine subsided.

Wednesday’s announcement followed a meeting last week between German and U.S. military leaders at Ramstein Air Base that failed to produce an agreement on tanks. At the same time, the Ramstein talks made clear just how close Western leaders were in their view of the conflict.

Once it became clear that an agreement had been struck, Russian media outlets — effectively controlled by the Kremlin — dutifully trotted out experts who said the tanks would not significantly change the course of the war.

The arrival of the West’s most sophisticated armored equipment may not come in time to stop an expected Russian offensive, which may come before spring’s warmer weather turns frozen roads into boggy mud. Nor are the Ukrainians, who have never been shy in asking for help, getting as many tanks as they requested.

A U.S. Army soldier walks near a line of Abrams battle tanks.
Abrams battle tanks in Lithuania in 2019. (Mindaugas Kulbis/AP)

“The Russian military and their thugs are still pretty lethal,” Kirby said Wednesday, referring not only to regular Russian troops, but also to Wagner Group paramilitaries who have made some gains around the city of Bakhmut.

All the same, the U.S. and German tank announcements were a sign that the West was committing to Ukraine’s security in the long term, with the nation becoming a kind of bulwark against the territorial expansion Putin and his pan-Slavic ideologues have envisioned.

“We want to make sure that they have the right capabilities to not only defend themselves against the Russian onslaught,” a senior administration official said on Wednesday, but also “the ability to retake and to reclaim their sovereign territory,” including the territory Russia conquered in 2014, during the first stage of its incursion into Ukraine.

Nor are Germany and the United States alone in their commitment, even if the sophistication of the two nations’ tanks has dominated media coverage. France had already committed to sending its AMX-10 RC tanks; Great Britain said it was sending Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine earlier this month. With so many nations now putting heavy armor into play, Russia finds itself facing a united NATO resistance without any major gaps or disagreements to exploit.

The return of German tanks to Eastern European soil is proving especially galling to Russians, given the heroic defeat of the Nazis during World War II. Among the Soviet Union’s key victories during that conflict was the Battle of Kursk in the summer of 1943, the largest tank battle in world history.

A Leopard 2 tank fires during a military drill.
A Leopard 2 tank fires during a military drill in Latvia in September 2022. (Ints Kalnins/Reuters)

Though little known in the West, the battle retains a mythic status in the collective Russian memory. A local official in southern Russia allegedly used 2.2 million rubles (about $31,700) to stage a re-creation of the battle in a university gym late last year.

Kremlin propagandist and RT editor Margarita Simonyan joked on Twitter that come summer, Germany would be sending “gas chambers” to Ukraine, a reference to the Holocaust.

Solovyov, meanwhile, said that “the Fourth Reich has declared war on Russia,” alluding to the Third Reich, as Germany under Hitler was known.

While many Russians already seem to believe the Kremlin’s grievance-laden propaganda, Western officials continued to signal that there was a simple, if unlikely, resolution at hand.

“We’d like to see this war end today, and it absolutely could,” Kirby said on Wednesday. “All Putin has to do is pull his troops out of Ukraine and call it a day, and it’s over.”